Running Games

Diary of the Doctor

I have discovered the Diary of the Doctor Who Role-Playing Games, a relatively regular and current amateur online magazine, free to download, providing characters, environments, adventures, and features for all incarnations of the Doctor Who RPG – include the FASA and Timelord versions.

While I haven’t had the chance to read through the thirteen issues in detail, I certainly appreciate the effort put into bringing them together. I have opened a few issues and they contain a lot of interesting ideas, plenty of content, and a plethora of pictures. I suspect you’ll find something here of interest, whether complete or simply as the seed for an adventure or encounter of your own creation.

Adventure Path

Predictability, or the lack of it, can make it very hard to design an adventure. I use loose plotting as it is, and I’m thankful I don’t spend a tremendous amount of time preparing. For the adventure I’ve run over the last three week, I had a view of key people, locations and event, but no absolutes about the resolution of these key features. If the players decided to send their characters off at a tangent, I needed to know what might be going on elsewhere, but didn’t want to stop them playing the way they wanted to play.

I had my location, my villain and their plan; but, in the end, the characters defeated the villain without understanding the plan at all. They saved some kidnapped villagers, but none of them would know from what. In the heat of the confrontation, the characters launched into combat and didn’t allow the villain much opportunity for grandstanding with some cackling monologue about his intentions and the likely fate of the characters. One of the characters got captured, but when the rest arrived he managed to free himself and sabotage the enemy ship – something I couldn’t bring myself to complicate as he made the best roll in the whole game while hiding from the enemy using mathematical principles.

My notes amounted to a couple of flow charts, a set of briefs stats for the enemy and their minions, and a few maps and notes printed off the Internet. Using a real world locations meant that I didn’t have to create an environment. Check out Kettleness if you have the time. An alum quarry (that in the distant past caught fire and burnt for two years?!), dinosaur bones in the cliffs, a Roman signal tower, a railway station that closed in the late 50s (with several lengths of abandoned tunnel to investigate), a mysterious black dog terrorizing the locals, and an exorcism. Perfect location for something, especially as the settlement remains remote to this very day.

I consider it a worthy development, in future, to not only have a map of locations, people and events, but also to include a matrix of clues associated with them. I may take a leaf out of the ‘Trail of Cthulhu’ game and create adventures where the clues never get missed, and the characters get to concentrate on the danger, excitement and advancing through to the conclusion. I sort of manage that with this adventure, but still felt that it could have gone better.

Planning the Season

Despite what feels like an endless term of planning followed by lashings of self-doubt, I move ever closer to running my own role-playing campaign using the new Doctor Who system. With that in mind, I have been concocting a story arc. So, given the common practice seems to be to have a season structured along the lines of thirteen episodes… What I have in mind thus far is:

  1. Arrowdown
    • A TARDIS crashes on the outskirts of a small seaside town faces an infinite time loop filled with Autons and a tortured fragment of the Nestene Consciousness, while a lost Torchwood operative only seeks to find her husband
  2. Future of the Cybermen
    • A scout ship on a deep space run to deliver vital medicine to an outlying colony faces scavenging Cybermen, misguided pirates and a temporal anomaly strong enough to trap everyone until the end of time
  3. Collision
    • A research team on the LHC have discovered a ground-breaking new particle, but also appear to have opened a channel to their beloved departed… and the hate-infused Gelth (I realise this is something of a riff on the Torchwood radio drama ‘Lost Souls’)
  4. Adventure #4 – part 1
  5. Adventure #4 – part 2
  6. The Tunnel
    • A train carrying a royal traveller from Paris to London comes under threat from clockwork soldiers that threaten to derail time and space itself
  7. The Sward and the Stone
    • In 14th century Wales, a small group of travellers transport a carved stone along the south coast to Pembroke, trailed by what appears to be a leper knight and a retinue of rebels intent on acquisition of the block and the power it contains to save the Pyrovile
  8. Adventure #7 – part 1
  9. Adventure #7 – part 2
  10. Adventure #8
  11. Adventure #9
  12. Doom of the Time Lords
    • Locked in the gaol of an ancient castle, the time travellers struggle to escape only to be faced with the revelation that the world around them is a construct of the Matrix, their captors are the Krillitane, and the adventures before now have been faced by doppelgängers.
  13. Triumph of the Krillitane
    • With the all the elements needed to restore the core to the Nightmare Child in place, the Krillitane intend to absorb the DNA of the Time Lords to access the Rassilon Imprimatur that will allow them to escape with mastery of Time, leaving the true Lords of Time and the Daleks trapped within the Time Lock, and the Universe at their mercy

Yes, several gaps remain – and I’m working on them. I have a feeling I may try for another Cybermen episode to follow-up on ‘Future of the Cybermen‘, a reworking of the old adventure module ‘Countdown‘.

The Krillitane sit at the heart of the arc and they have used the loophole in The Doctor’s time lock created by The Master to steal a TARDIS, insert agents of their own (namely the players) and set them off to find the components needed to steal one of the hideous meta-weapons of the Time War – the Nightmare Child. The real Time Lords, who will hopefully save the day in the final episodes, have been held within the Matrix – as per previous experiences in The Deadly Assassin and The Ultimate Foe – and manage to make their escape in time to foil the Krillitane plot.

A twist in the tale will leave the players faced with the prospect of imprisonment along with the rest of the Time Lords when The Doctor restores the lock following his confrontation with The Master and Rassilon. Each adventure in the sequence will give the players access to a piece of technology or knowledge that will combine to create the core of the Nightmare Child. The players will not actively perceive the act of ‘theft’ needed to acquire each item, though some foretelling may occur at the end of certain episodes where any physical items may be seen to disappear at the hands of an unseen enemy.

Make The End Sing

‘Tooth and Claw’ provides an excellent story, packed full of excitement, energy and classic elements aplenty. Heroism and deceit, violence and innovation, fear and elation. We know that Queen Victoria can’t die, mustn’t die, and yet we see the peril she faces and the people who give up their lives in her name.

However, the incredible episode really shines in the conclusion. If you want to have a model for your adventures, look here for how to handle your ending. Yes, you want resolution, the chance to set the world right again and put an end to the plans of the villain – and yet… There should be more. The ending of an adventure should provide threads to continue on beyond the bounds of the current story.

In ‘Tooth and Claw’, we have the obvious introduction of the Torchwood Institute and the implications of a British Empire aware of aliens threat. Also, Queen Victoria suffers an injury at the hands of the Lupine Wavelength Haemavariform, leading to the possibility that down through time the cells of the werewolf might surface again within the Royal bloodline. Further, what repercussions might Victoria’s banishing of the Doctor have. While we know that Torchwood will later seek him out, what impact might it have on later adventures – as any time spent in Victorian England after 1879 might attract the attention of people aware of Victoria’s edict.

Less obvious perhaps, but we also have the thread that Prince Albert and Sir Robert’s father clearly had their own understanding and theories about the werewolf. Given Prince Albert’s meticulous preparation of the Koh-i-Noor diamond it would not be too much of a stretch to suggest something like an occult gentlemen’s club might exist, patronised by the Prince. Similar to the London-based Ghost Club, of which Charles Darwin was a member, such an organisation might seek to gather knowledge about matters of the Unknown and look to arm itself against it.

It’s a great episode – and by following it’s example you can create adventures that provide a great gateway to future encounters.